expert music technicians

Helping the bands play on

The Music is Instrumental program pays for mentors, online instruction, choir – even valve oil – to keep music education alive in Lincoln County schools

When students in Lincoln City report for band practice, they frequently find themselves under the guidance of what might seem some unlikely tutors.

There’s G.W. “Sandy” Schaefer, a professor emeritus of music from the Nebraska State College System, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and California State University Fresno. Also, Forrest Fisher, former music director for the Lake Oswego School District and member of the Lincoln Pops Orchestra. And Greg Burton, a former bassist with the Oregon and San Diego symphonies and soloist at Symphonisches Orchester Berlin.

Not a bad line-up for a small coastal town. 

Students can thank the nonprofit Music is Instrumental for providing funds to pay for the “expert music technicians” — composed largely of retirees and grad students — who function as mentors to about 340 young musicians.  The nonprofit, in turn, can thank grant programs offered through the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition.


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“Music has become so important for these kids,” said Mark Sanders, director of the Music is Instrumental board. “Some of these kids don’t belong to groups; they are not necessarily popular; they may have some sort of impairment. Music has enabled these kids to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. Kids involved with music excelled in their testing scores, came to school more often. They became part of a group, so that enhanced their self-esteem.”

Zac Will, a junior at Taft 7-12, plays with the Taft Jazz Band and says having the expert music technicians available “opens up opportunities for everybody.” Photo courtesy: Music Is Instrumental
Zac Will, a junior at Taft 7-12, plays with the Taft Jazz Band and says having the expert music technicians available “opens up opportunities for everybody.” Photo courtesy: Music Is Instrumental

The program that would become Music is Instrumental got its start in 2014 with a 3-year grant through the Oregon Community Foundation aimed at bringing music education back into Lincoln City schools. Organizers bought sheet music and instruments and created a library where students could check out instruments.

Another grant permitted the group to continue two more years, Sanders said. “With that project ending, we realized how many lives we’d changed through the five years we were going. Five of us decided we can’t let music go away from our schools again.”

So, in 2018, the nonprofit Music is Instrumental was born and that year earned a grant for $1,300 from the Mark Sponenburgh Memorial Trust, also administered through the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition. The grant provided an important cornerstone for the future of the foundation, paying the salaries of the music technicians. Another grant through the cultural coalition provided funding for the choir program.

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